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Rosa Passos: Amarosa

If you’re as ardent a fan of Yo-Yo Ma’s Grammy-winning Obrigado Brazil or his equally fine Carnegie Hall encore, Obrigado Brazil Live in Concert, then you’re already familiar with sensational Brazilian guitarist/vocalist Rosa Passos. In Brazil, Passos has justifiably been recognized as one of the foremost contemporary bossa interpreters for a quarter-century. With any luck (and adequate airplay), she will gain as superb a reputation north of the equator with the release of her debut North American recording, Amarosa (Sony Classical). Presenting Amarosa as an homage to Joao Gilberto and his seminal ’77 album Amaroso, Passos wisely borrows two of the best from the Ma recordings-Paquito D’Rivera (on clarinet) and percussionist Cyro Baptista, rounding out her stellar support with four of Brazil’s finest: drummer Paulo Braga, bassist Paulo Paulelli, saxophonist Rodrigo Ursaia and pianist Helio Alves. The focus is primarily on bossa standards, including a trio of Jobim classics (“Wave,” “Voce Vai Ver” and “Retrato em Branco e Preto”), a pair of Janet de Almeida treasures (“Eu Sambo Mesmo,” “Pra Que Discutir Com Madame”) and Jayme Silva’s delightfully effervescent “O Pato.” But Passos, with a voice simultaneously as sexily fragile as Astrud Gilberto’s and as joyously robust as Eliane Elias’, also tosses in a few wonderful musical curves, including one of the most sensual treatments of “Besame Mucho” ever captured on disc, a marvelous Elis Regina-meets-Marlene Dietrich version of the Gershwins’ “‘S Wonderful” and, best of all, a soaring union with 87-year-old French icon Henri Salvador on Charles Trenet’s “Que Reste-t-Il de nos Amours” (better known in English as “I Wish You Love.”) If you have even a modicum of interest in Brazilian jazz vocals, you owe it to yourself to make Amarosa a cornerstone of your collection. One of the year’s best, it is a stunning work of art.

Originally Published